DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Beachgoers enjoyed the Nani Kai section of Ulehawa Beach Park in Maili after it reopened yesterday after being closed for five days for cleaning. Rowena Tagalicod, right, handed her daughter Reiana to her husband, Regimel, as half brother Carl Ingram looked on. The family lives near the park but said they did not come often because the homeless population made them feel unwelcome.
Beachgoers thrilled by park’s clean slate
With squatters gone, the Maili spot is cleaned up and accessible again
The city reopened portions of a Waianae Coast park yesterday after a five-day closure that forced out homeless campers and allowed workers to spruce up restrooms, picnic tables and trash cans.
Two areas of Ulehawa Beach Park that were cleaned -- Nani Kai and Surfer's Beach -- are along Farrington Highway near Maili Stream. They are now closed nightly from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
At Nani Kai an estimated 100 beach dwellers had lived in tents and under tarps that blocked the horizon. Less than half of those went to a state shelter, officials said.
Les Chang, director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, said the homeless population made it difficult for employees to maintain the park.
In a deteriorated restroom, a urinal was off the wall, and people were living inside.
The city announced in December that it would clean the 4-acre section of the park to give state and nonprofit agencies time to relocate those living at the beach.
For one week, city park crews from the Leeward Coast renovated the restroom, replacing damaged windows and broken fixtures. They also repaired, painted or replaced picnic tables, charcoal pits and trash cans.
Sprinklers were repaired and will continue improving the park as the grass returns.
To keep it clean, a community group volunteered to help. Edward Lauer, general resident manager of Sea Country, a residential community in Waianae, said about 50 residents have agreed to help once a week, monitoring graffiti and cleaning up.
"The community needs to be more involved in this so we can keep our parks and keep them in good shape," he said.
At Nani Kai yesterday, Mayor Mufi Hannemann said his process for cleaning up city parks populated by homeless people has been a success.
"We're not going to stop," he said. "The community likes to see us do this."
Since April 2006 the city has cleaned up several parks with homeless populations.
"We have a game plan that we follow," he said. "The playbook is already written. The state needs to continue to build transitional housing so we can do this."
While the Surfer's Beach area was free of tents, across a stream was another enclave of about 20 more tents. A park employee said the homeless population is even more pronounced farther north at Keaau Beach Park.
Maili resident Larry Conrad rode his bike to Nani Kai to enjoy the beach.
"It's like night and day," he said while sitting in a lawn chair. "This is tremendous, great, wonderful."
Before the cleanup, he recalled, he felt like he was walking through someone's living room on the beach. "Before, these people were intimidating," he said. "I'd never seen the whole thing in its entirety. It's a revelation."